This is completely understandable since both run on WordPress, both use themes and plugins and both are readily available for free online. But there are major disparities between the two and those distinctions are what make WordPress.org our favorite flavor of WordPress.
I will be giving the main features of WordPress.com and WordPress.org below. I’ll also explain why we personally prefer and use WordPress.org, plus an easy 3 step guide if you want to give WordPress a try. So let’s dig in!
WordPress.com is a free platform for building a blog and website with WordPress. It’s fully managed by Automattic (the creators behind WordPress) and best of all it’s one of the easiest blogging platforms on the web. All you need to do is register for a free account, choose your subdomain (example: yourwebsite.wordpress.com), pick a free theme and start adding your content.
However nothing in life is ever totally perfect, so of course, there are a few pros & cons of WordPress.com.
One of the most alluring features of WordPress.com is that for the majority of users it’s 100% free. Free accounts come with free hosting, a free subdomain name, free themes, simple customizer options (like a custom logo, and background color or image options) and 3GB of free storage space for your content and media.
In addition to affordability WordPress.com is also extremely easy to use. It’s ready to go from the time you signup, so after creating your account you get to jump right into blogging.
If you do desire more features upgrading to a premium WordPress plan is just as easy as signing up for a free one. Paid plans range from $2.99 per month for a custom domain and no WordPress.com ads, up to $24.92 per month for businesses that want even more features such as premium themes, monetization, SEO, Google analytics and more.
As great as WordPress.com is there are a few limitations to be aware of. The first being that whether it’s a free account or a paid one you never truly have complete control over your website. WordPress.com owns your content since everything you create is hosted and maintained on their multisite (unless you’re using the $5,000/mo WordPress VIP which is custom cloud-hosted WordPress).
With WordPress.com you’re also limited to the free and premium themes they provide you via your dashboard. This means that they control the way your website looks since using their platform means you’re limited to the themes and plugins they allow you to use.
You also cannot utilize Google analytics unless you upgrade to their top tier premium plan (so if you want to track your traffic, analyze reader behavior, or see what your most popular posts are it’s going to cost you $299+ a year).
The second major downside of WordPress.com is the fact that even the most basic option for monetizing your blog costs extra. So if you want to remove WordPress.com’s default ads (which generate the income they need to cover the cost of free accounts) and/or integrate WordPress’ own “WordAds” network you have to upgrade your plan.
Similarly if you were hoping to create an online store WordPress.com isn’t for you. Currently e-commerce is not supported. Although it is in the works a timeline is not available so I wouldn’t recommend waiting on bated breath.
Lastly, WordPress.com does not support multisite for users. WordPress.com is really a giant multisite itself (which is why free accounts get free subdomains), so if you were hoping to create your own network of websites WordPress.com probably isn’t a good fit.
WordPress.org may have the same namesake and use the same content management system as WordPress.com but it’s an entirely separate entity unto itself. Instead of everything being managed by Automattic you are fully in control of your website.
WordPress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress that you can use to build your own website online. And while it still has it’s pros and cons, it’s our personal favorite form of WordPress.
To start, WordPress.org has all the functionality of WordPress.com but on steroids. Mainly, no matter what you want to create you have 100% control and rights to your content.
Because WordPress.org is just provides you with the content management system and nothing more you have the option for a custom domain name, your choice of hosting plans, and your pick of any free or premium WordPress theme or plugin you find on the web.
If you are a small business owner looking to bring your products or services online then WordPress.org is the only option for you. It offers full e-commerce support via free plugins like WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads, as well as third party services such as Shopify and Ecwid.
Lastly, with WordPress.org, the sky is the limit of what you can do with your website. You can build anything. Want to create a membership site? Offer online courses? Provide royalty-free images? Sell your own WordPress themes? Collect donations for your charity? Share your epic videos? Whatever you want to create self-hosted WordPress can support it. It’s often as easy as installing a WordPress plugin.
It’s hard to find cons for something I love and use everyday, but there are a few. The first being that using WordPress.org costs money even though WordPress itself is free. Your domain registration and hosting plan will be at least $50 per year. This is assuming you choose a shared hosting plan and use only free themes and plugins.
If you want an awesome theme like the Total multipurpose theme and powerful managed WordPress hosting from a reputable company like WP Engine you’re looking at a starting price of $400 per year. Although I would still argue that this is a small price to pay for a 100% customizable website that you can use for any purpose, and it’s a far better deal than WordPress.com’s Business plan since you have complete freedom to do anything with your website.
Additionally, you have to install WordPress on your server. Setup is in your hands, however, most hosting companies offer 1-click installation, a host like HarmonWeb, so this really isn’t a big deal unless you’re using a custom cloud or dedicated server that you have to manage on your own.
The last drawback is that you are responsible for your website’s security and maintenance. When using WordPress.com they are in charge of everything except your content creation, meaning core WordPress updates and security patches are all handled by them. With WordPress.org you are responsible for keeping your version of WordPress up to date and utilizing basic WordPress security measures like strong passwords and regular website backups.
Although, it’s worth noting that this task is easily taken care of by using managed WordPress hosting or a shared host that offers automatic updates. Hosting companies like WP Engine and Flywheel take care of core updates, Malware scans, and even website backups for you. Leaving you free to focus on your content.
Why I Recommend WordPress.org
When it comes down to it we feel that WordPress.com is best suited for hobbyists, online resumes and small businesses that simply need a website for creating a basic online presence. Anything above and beyond that is really better suited for self-hosted WordPress.org.
I like having control over my content, my hosting and my income. Our blog is very literally our business, and having complete authority over our website has enabled us to create something successful.
WordPress.com doesn’t give you a server choice, all of their plans are hosted on shared servers (unless you can afford the cloud VIP option, of course). As I stated before, if you have a blog as a hobby then a shared server is completely fine and WordPress.com would probably work great for you. But for anyone looking to grow a brand or a business you really need to consider the impact better hosting has on your page load times and this is something WordPress.com currently doesn’t offer.
In my next article, I will be showing you simple steps to install WordPress from your shared hosting.
If you have any question you want to ask me or something confusing you about this post, kindly use the comment section. I will be glad to hear from you. Thanks